TWO of last season’s top performing Wessex League premier division managers go head to head as Fareham Town and Horndean clash at Cams Alders tonight (7.45pm).
Pete Stiles did a remarkable job after replacing Steve Stone at Fareham at the start of 2017.
At the time the Reds were bottom of the league and facing a relegation dogfight.
By the end of the season, however, their fortunes had been transformed and they ended up finishing 12th.
Michael Birmingham did an equally fantastic job at Five Heads Park guiding Horndean to sixth place.
With both managers determined to improve again this season a fascinating local derby is in prospect.
‘I should imagine both teams are raring to go,’ said Reds boss Stiles.
‘Hopefully we can pick up where we left off last season and maintain momentum.
‘Pre-season has been a little indifferent but hopefully we will go out and give a good account of ourselves.
‘We had a terrific second half of last season with confidence growing game by game.
‘The nucleus of that side is still here, with one or two good additions.
‘Like everything at this club it is going to take time but I am determined to continue rebuilding on and off the field.
‘You must always look to improve on the previous season.’
Stiles has brought in Louis Castles from Baffins Milton Rovers and AFC Portchester trio Tony Easter, Miles Gibbs and Tom Froggatt.
He has also added 18-year-old forward George Root who is joint-signed with Aldershot.
Easter, Jason Plomer and Sam Kessack are not available.
Horndean impressed with their passing and quick attacking football last season.
‘There is no grass in the sky,’ said Birmingham.
‘This game will be all about who can stamp their authority on it.
‘No league is won or lost first game, though, both teams will be going all out for the win.
‘We have to make sure we stay switched on at the back because Fareham possess a lot of pace.
‘All I am looking for is for us to go out and play the way we can.’
Horndean gave their confidence a big boost with a good performance to scare the Hawks in the recent entertaining 4-3 friendly defeat. It showed the quality of the Horndean squad.
‘For the first time in a few years we have managed to put together a squad of 20 capable players,’ said Birmingham.
‘I can look at our substitute bench and see I have options which can change games.’
Fareham Town (from): Douglas, Castles, Froggatt, James, Laycock, Heard, Barker, Roberts, Davis, Holmes, Robbins, Shadbolt, Woods, Gibson, Tattersall, Root
Horndean (from): Harding, Reed, Walker, Humble, Sackman, Kyle, Johnson, Wain, Tigwell, Hookey, Howells, Warren, Boyle, Duffin, Jack Maloney, Smith, Everett, Josh Maloney, Jackson